MOSCOW – A senior Russian Orthodox official claimed Wednesday that novels by Vladimir Nabokov and Gabriel Garcia Marquez justify pedophilia and said they should be banned in the nation's high schools.
Father Vsevolod Chaplin's demand that Russia's government investigate and limit the use of the books was his church's latest attempt to impose religious norms in a country that once rejected religion altogether.
Chaplin, who heads the Moscow Patriarchate's public relations department, discussed Nabokov's "Lolita" and Garcia Marquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude" on Ekho Moskvy radio, accusing both of "justifying pedophilia."
The priest later elaborated in comments carried by Interfax, saying the authors' works should not be included in high school curriculums as they "romanticize perverted passions that make people unhappy."
"Obviously, the popularization of these novels in schools will not make our society more morally happy," he was quoted as saying.
Mikhail Shvydkoi, a Kremlin envoy for international cultural cooperation, disagreed, saying such action by authorities would badly hurt Russia's image.
Nabokov, who left his native Russia shortly after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, published "Lolita" in English in 1955. The book, which describes a relationship of a middle-aged intellectual with his 12-year-old stepdaughter, was briefly banned in several European countries, Argentina and South Africa -- as well as several library systems and public schools in the U.S.
Nabokov translated the book into Russian in 1967, but that work -- along with the rest of his writings -- was banned in the Soviet Union as "pornography."
Unlike "Lolita," Garcia Marquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude" was published in the Soviet era -- despite numerous references to incest and sex with minors.
The Colombian novelist was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982.
The Russian Orthodox Church has called for tighter controls on the content of television and radio broadcasts and said Russian women should observe an "Orthodox dress code" by wearing longer skirts and non-revealing clothes.
The church has experienced a revival since the collapse of the officially atheist Soviet Union in 1991. It now claims that more than 100 million followers in Russia and tens of millions elsewhere, but polls have shown that only about 5 percent of Russians are observant believers.
Church and state are officially separate under the post-Soviet constitution, but Orthodox leaders seek a more muscular role for the church, which has served the state for much of its 1,000-year history.
Some nonreligious Russians complain that the church has tailored its doctrine to suit the government, which has justified Russia's retreat from Western-style democracy by saying the country has a unique history and culture.